Beginnings are always important times. Early impressions matter, patterns once set can be difficult to change and establishing momentum early is important.
Here's how I'm planning to approach the process:
1. Get acquainted with the Team — As we know, business is a team, contact sport. Precious little can be accomplished without the aligned and active support of those around you. The foundation to build that on is trust, which in turn depends on the establishment of personal relationships.
That takes time and dedicated effort. So, job one is to meet and spend time with members of my team, my peers and those members of senior management with whom I don't already have a relationship. In each case the goals are similar:
- Get to know them as people
- Introduce myself to them
- Ask their inputs on what's most important to focus on in getting started (see below)
Throughout, it's important to remember that you're inserting yourself into an existing web of relationships, some links in which may have formed over decades. Coming to understand how that's working today, and about the cultural norms within which it operates, is another early key point of focus.
With their inputs, I should be able to lay out a prioritized plan for where and when to focus my attention. That plan will likely look something like the next steps listed below…
2. Immediate (First Week) Priorities — If there's a ticking bomb somewhere, I'll want to discover it fast, apply triage as required, and begin to develop a get-well plan:
- Are any critical programs or initiatives about to come off the rails?
- Major customer satisfaction issues (external or internal)?
- Looming legal issues?
- Budget blow-ups?
- Critical people issues?
If any exist, it's likely that I'll readily find out about some easily, others make take some digging.
3. Mid-term (First 90 day) Priorities — After gaining confidence that something isn't about to blow up, these items will get my attention next:
- Program Reviews: I'll be joining an up-and-running business. There will clearly be a good number of existing initiatives and programs that my team has going, either independently or on a cross-functional basis with others. I'll want to know how all of those are going, by attending already scheduled program reviews, calling new ones if required and spending one-on-one time with owners and other key players.
- External Constituency Meetings: Since mine will be a market-facing responsibility, I'll want to meet as many key customers, as well as partners and suppliers, as possible, as soon as possible. The discussion agendas will be similar to those for the team meetings, described above. Listening here is more important than talking.
- Establish a Local Management System: While the company overall most likely has a well-structured system of meetings and other processes by which it operates, it's likely that some local refinement and personalization will be appropriate.
- Fill any Short Term Team Gaps: A thorough plan for Organization Development will come a bit later (see below), but it's possible that I'll find it important to fill critical gaps in the team early on. In some cases, I'll choose to don another hat or two rather than make a hasty hire or promotion before I know how to do so intelligently.
- Refine and Align the Definition of My Role: Mine will be a newly created function. While I'll clearly have a good idea going in as to the definition of its responsibilities and accountabilities, it's also likely that some refinement of that initial conception may be appropriate. I'll want to focus on this, and secure alignment all around regarding any mid-course corrections required, during the first ninety days or so.
- Homework: I'll want to lay out a learning agenda for myself: existing Business Plans, Industry Briefings, Analyst Reports, etc. Reading stuff for nights and travel time.
4. Longer Term (First 6 – 12 month) Priorities — Next, I'll turn attention to strategies and organization development:
- Strategy Refinement: While the role I'll be taking is new, the team(s) I'll be responsible for are existing. They're executing current plans under some combination of company-wide and local strategies. While I'll want to understand what those are as early as possible (via the steps above), I won't be expecting to change them in the early going, if for no other reason (there are several), I won't know enough to do so in any informed way. Within the first 6 to 12 months though, it will be time to focus on refreshing, refining or extending those strategies. This is a team effort, and my preference is for broad participation. (More on this some other time.)
- Organization Development: By now, I'll know enough to be thoughtful regarding how to build the organization I'll be responsible for so as to meet our responsibilities and challenges. Some of this may be done within the context of an annual planning cycle; some may not be able to wait that long. We'll see.
So, that will be my basic plan of attack. I will refine it as I come to learn more during the early stages of settling in. Should be fun.